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Word Count: 845
Weather changes all the time The average pattern of weather called climate usually stays pretty much the same for centuries if it is left to itself However the earth is not being left alone People are taking actions that can change the earth and its climate in significant ways Carbon dioxide is the main culprit The single human activity that is most likely to have a large impact on the climate is the burning of fossil fuels such as coal oil and gas These fuels contain carbon Burning them makes carbon dioxide gas Since the early 1800s when people began burning large amounts of coal and oil the amount of carbon dioxide in the earths atmosphere has increased by nearly 30 and average global temperature appears to have risen between 1 and 2F Carbon dioxide gas traps solar heat in the atmosphere partly in the same way as glass traps solar heat in a sunroom or a greenhouse For this reason carbon dioxide is called a greenhouse gas As more carbon dioxide is added to the atmosphere solar heat has more trouble getting out The result is that if everything else stayed unchanged the average temperature of the atmosphere would increase As people burn more fossil fuel for energy they add more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere If this goes on long enough the average temperature of the atmosphere will almost certainly increase Most scientists believe that if significant climate change occurs it will take place gradually over a period of many decades If change is gradual the overall economic impact on wealthy countries such as the United States will probably be modest although some regions or groups may experience large costs and others may experience large benefits After all American society already exists very successfully in Alaska Arizona and Florida and these states span a range of climates much wider than any predicted changes Farmers would have to adjust their crops
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